Story & photos by Bernard L. Supetran
SUMMER might be officially over, but that doesn’t mean beach bumming has also come to an end. On the brighter side, the third quarter lean season might be better as there would be lesser people on the road, hotel rates are cheaper, and the sun isn’t as scorching as it was during the long, hot summer.
And among the closest beach destinations just a few hours away up north is Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan which can be easily reached through the newly opened Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx), which makes the obscure destinations more accessible.
Arguably one of the country’s most historic bodies of water, the Gulf dates back to the legendary pre-Spanish amazon Princesa Urduja, the storied Chinese pirate Lim Ah Hong, Japanese Imperial Army Commander General Masaharu Homma who landed his invasion troops during World War II, and then General Douglas MacArthur with the Allied Forces to liberate Luzon.
But you need not be a culture vulture to bask in its sun-kissed sleepy shores which will entice you to linger a little longer. A largely under-the-radar getaway, Lingayen Gulf may yet be your biggest unexpected find with its merry mix of interesting stuff on and off the beach.
A most Instagrammable spot is the American-era Provincial Capitol Complex, reputedly the most postcard-perfect government building which has become a tourist destination. The centerpiece of the sprawling center is the main capitol building of Graeco-Roman architecture which is marking the centennial of its construction this year. The landmark was the ground zero of MacArthur’s second major Allied troop landing and is immortalized in the Veterans Park where vintage photos and war materiel are displayed.
Nearby are the equally majestic Sison Auditorium, the cultural and civic center of northern Luzon restored in 2010, and the stately Urduja House, the governor’s ceremonial residence. At the Capitol Resort Hotel, you can perfect your golf swing at the Driving Range which looks out into the sea.
One of the earliest pueblos organized by Spain, Lingayen takes pride in its scores of heritage structures which have withstood the ravages of time. Worthy seeing are the Church of the Epiphany with its century-old bells on display at the patio, the ancestral house of President Fidel Ramos and the Bengson-Yuzon House which acts as the town’s de facto museum.
The town’s public market is a shopping ground for Pangasinense food, such as Bolinao’s binungey (sticky rice in a bamboo), Dagupan’s boneless bangus, Calasiao’s puto, Bayambang’s malangsi (fresh water fish), Mangatarem’s tupig (grilled rice cake in coconut milk), patupat (sweet sticky rice in banana leaves) and Lingayen’s very own bagoong (fish paste), and other provincial delicacies.
And when it’s time to lay your head, El Puerto Marina is the hands-down choice for family and friends. This quaint resort hotel and spa has Balinese tropical-themed rooms which combines homey ambiance and modern amenities, including suites affiliated with the Resorts Club Inc. global hotel consortium.
A sought-after room type is the single detached bungalow huts because of the fronting man-made lagoon where guests can fish.
Adjacent the resort is Aquatica Marina Waterpark, a beachside water park which is first of its kind in northern Luzon. It boasts five swimming pools—a giant slide pool, a wave and giant bucket pool, the raging river, a smaller slide pool and a playground pool ideal for small children.
Lingayen’s powdery gray beachfront is ideal for bonfires, sand-castle building, luau-themed dinners, team-bonding activities, beach sports, sunset or sunrise gazing or simply whiling away time.
At dawn, you can witness the fisherfolk with their bountiful catch which you can buy fresh at rock-bottom pric es before they get to the market.
A place to be seen is the newly completed kilometers-long Lingayen Baywalk, which is brimming with people jogging, biking, strolling, doing Zumba and a host of beach recreation from daybreak to dusk, which make you appreciate the simpler joys of the coastal village way of life.
With a shoreline which spans almost infinitely, the Gulf is a haven for water sports, such as surfing, kayaking, skimboarding and banana boating which El Puerto Marina can provide. The resort can also arrange tours around the town, the iconic Hundred Islands Natural Park in neighboring Alaminos City and transportation to various parts of Luzon.
Come chow time, its Playa Restaurant offers a gastronomic journey with mouthwatering Pangasinense cuisine, such as the famed bangus, longganisa, pingka (swordfish), as well as all-time Pinoy favorites.
And if you’re still itching for some more powdery white sand and gin clear water, you can hie off to the far beaches to the west—Patar in Bolinao, Tondol in Anda, Sabangan in Agno, Masamirey Cove in Sual and Cabongaoan in Burgos.
With beaches of various shades and shapes, luscious cuisine, cozy staycations and everything in between, there are a hundred and one reasons to linger longer in Lingayen Gulf even beyond the summer season.